Speed Reads

'sick and twisted'

Vanderbilt University apologizes for using ChatGPT to pen 'disgusting' email after MSU mass shooting

Vanderbilt University officials are apologizing to students after using ChatGPT to write a condolence email regarding the mass shooting at Michigan State University, The Washington Post reports. 

The email was sent Thursday by the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Peabody College, Vanderbilt's school of education. Though the message addressed the MSU shooting, it "didn't refer to any Vanderbilt organizations or resources that students could contact for support," the Post says. Instead, the email outlined steps to "ensure that we are doing our best to create a safe and inclusive environment for all."

"The recent Michigan shootings are a tragic reminder of the importance of taking care of each other, particularly in the context of creating inclusive environments," the letter began. "As members of the Peabody campus community, we must reflect on the impact of such an event and take steps to ensure that we are doing our best to create a safe and inclusive environment for all." A note in parenthesis at the bottom of the email said: "Paraphrase from OpenAI's ChatGPT AI language model."

Students were enraged by the impersonal nature of the message, calling it "disgusting," while noting the "sick and twisted irony to making a computer write your message about community and togetherness," per student newspaper The Vanderbilt Hustler. The following day, in a follow-up email cited by The Vanderbilt Hustler, Peabody associate dean Nicole Joseph apologized for "poor judgment."

"While we believe in the message of inclusivity expressed in the email," Joseph wrote, "using ChatGPT to generate communications on behalf of our community in a time of sorrow and in response to a tragedy contradicts the values that characterize Peabody College."

In a Saturday statement, Peabody College Dean Camilla Benbow said she was "deeply troubled that a communication from my administration so missed the crucial need for personal connection and empathy during a time of tragedy," and said Vanderbilt was investigating the decision to send the email.